Sister Mary Ellen Hanson was born on December 28, 1933, in Valentine, Nebraska. The first child of Nathaniel and Henrietta (Bruggeman) Hanson, she was later joined by a brother, John, and sister, Liz. Attending schools on various Native American Reservations in Oregon and Montana brought to her early education a sharing in their music, history, language, culture, and environmental values that led to a life-long reverence for indigenous people. Sr. Mary Ellen graduated from Poplar High School (MT). Having earned a full scholarship to Columbus School of Nursing (Great Falls, MT), she followed her mother’s example and earned her RN diploma. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Seattle University, 1957. Prior to entering the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, Sr. Mary Ellen worked as a public health nurse with Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (WA).
Sr. Mary Ellen credited the Vatican II Council and a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica (Mexico City) as key to her vocation discernment. In August 1966, Sr. Mary Ellen was received as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon. She professed her perpetual vows on August 15, 1971.
Sr. Mary Ellen generously gave of her skills, knowledge, vision, and work in the SSMO community mission of proclaiming the Good News of God’s love. In her ministry at Maryville Care Center, she served as a staff nurse, in-service coordinator, and social services technician until 1980. She completed Gonzaga University’s CREDO program in 1981, and focused her ministry in pastoral care serving as a DRE (Ashland and Redmond, OR), coordinator for the elderly Sisters at the SSMO Motherhouse, pastoral care minister at Mt. St. Joseph Care Center (Portland) and St. Charles Hospital (Bend), and volunteered in Redmond’s Hospice Bereavement program. From 1987 to 1990, she had a special joy as a caregiver to her parents in their home. After 1990, she served as a nurse case manager and a Contract RN with the Oregon Department of Human Resources in Redmond. She served as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist to the homebound in Redmond and Prineville parishes. In 2005 Sister moved to SSMO the Motherhouse in Beaverton where she proclaimed the Gospel with her music, art, appreciation for nature, birdwatching, and active participation in the SSMO Community.
Sr. Mary Ellen had an awareness of God’s love found in nature, art, music, and prayer and with a purposeful appreciation for the uniqueness of each person she encountered! She was active and intentional with over 50 SSMO Associates. The SSMO Associates join with Sr. Mary Ellen’s family, John and Judie Hanson (Seahurst, WA), Liz and Bill Smith (Deer Lodge, MT), her well-loved nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, her SSMO Community, and her friends in celebrating the life and gifts of Sr. Mary Ellen.
Memorial gifts in Sr. Mary Ellen Hanson’s honor may be made to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Retirement Fund.
Sr. Mary Ellen Hanson
December 28, 1933 – April 2, 2021
Vigil Service – Thursday, April 8, 2021 – Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon
Mass of Christian Burial – Friday, April 9, 2021, at 4 pm – Motherhouse Chapel
Live Stream: https://vimeo.com/533028009
Interment– Monday, April 12, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. in the Sisters’ Cemetery
May Sr. Mary Ellen rest in the Holy One’s Loving Embrace!